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THE CHILDREN ARE WATCHING, 1944
Movie Review

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THE CHILDREN ARE WATCHING MOVIE POSTER
THE CHILDREN ARE WATCHING, 1944
Movie Reviews

Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Emilio Cigoli, Luciano De Ambrosis, Isa Pola, Adriano Rimoldi, Giovanna Cigoli
Review by Jennifer Piazza



SYNOPSIS:

The film follows a four-year old boy named Prico as he becomes the subject of emotional folly by his fluctuant parents and inattentive relatives.

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REVIEW:

The Children Are Watching Us (I Bambini ci Guardano) is one of Vittoria DeSicaís first films, made four years before perhaps his most famous film, The Bicycle Thief. Similar to the aforementioned film, The Children Are Watching Us takes the point of view of a young child. Prico, the adorable four-year-old boy with haunting eyes shows us his torn and confusing world.

In the first moments of the film, we witness an encounter between Pricoís mother Nina and her lover, Roberto. The beautiful Nina, played by Isa Pola, is faced with a heart wrenching decision. Roberto begs her to leave her family and run away with him. While her love for Roberto is obvious, she seems painfully uncertain. She puts Prico to bed like a loving mother but is gone before he wakes in the morning. The father and maid are both flabbergasted and devastated. As though torn from an episode of Desperate Housewives the women in the neighborhood whisper and gossip. Most of the women seem to know all about the affair and few are surprised sheís actually left. Ninaís sister offers an excuse for her sibling, saying she always was a romantic.

This theme of women searching for romance is strung through various characters in the film. Their foolish decisions, clouded by love, make a victim of young Prico. After his mother is gone, he is sent to live with his aunt. While there, he is again abandoned by his caretaker who seeks love from the town pharmacist.

In the most visually interesting moment in the film, Pricoís feverish mind plays tricks on him outside a train window. All of the recent injustices done to him appear in a hallucination to haunt him. The scene is reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz montage when Dorothy is affected by the tornado. His spell triggers a return from his mother and despite the father wanting her to leave, he letís her stay for the sake of the boy. The fatherís character is perhaps the most developed beyond Prico himself. We are privy to all of his emotions, his sensitivity and feelings of abandonment.

The film allows us to enjoy the charm of the Italian coast when the now reunited family travels from Rome to a small beach town. Even in harsh black and white, the water and mountains sparkle with beauty. Itís easy to get visually swept away by the fantastic 1940ís bathing suits and sailboats. The town bleeds affluence and all the moral decadence that comes with it. It is here again that the film explores the themes of scandal and gossip. It isnít long before Roberto shows up to try to win back his lover and break up the family.

Pricoís facial expressions are the most heart breaking vision on screen and perhaps the most emotionally draining piece to the film. Pricoís sad eyes are almost too much during the filmís devastating ending.

The Children Are Watching Us is such an dramatic powerhouse that it deserves to sit right alongside The Bicycle Thief and Umberto D. as DeSicaís masterpieces.

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